On January 28, 1986, the NASA space shuttle Challenger exploded in midair during its launch site at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Millions of people experienced the horror as it was being broadcasted live on television and radio. On board of the shuttle was teacher Christa McAuliffe, the first American civilian selected to go into space, one payload specialist, and five NASA astronauts. The entire nation was left in shock because it was the first time ever the United States had lost a space vehicle with crew onboard. Christa’s death added to the shock her students, parents and family experienced while the incident unfolded, leaving them with irreparable damage. 

Six hours following the explosion, president Ronald Reagan delivered a comforting speech to the mourning nation. Many people wanted an explanation for what happened, but an investigation would take weeks. Instead, the president delivered a massage from heart. Reagan knew that children were watching and wanted to deliver a speech that they would understand.  Reagan spoke, “And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery… I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: “Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.’” People watching the speech found comfort and hope for future missions.

Later it was discovered that the cold weather from that morning and a misfunction from the seals of one of the solid rocket boosters caused the explosion. It took NASA three years to finally send out another shuttle into space. NASA learned from this experience and redesigned solid rocket boosters, pressurized suits, in-flight crew escape devices, and the establishment of several oversight committees.

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